Why Women Did Not Gain the Vote in 1914

Why Women Did Not Gain the Vote in 1914

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Why Women Did Not Gain the Vote in 1914

In 1914 women could work as highly respected members of society. They
could be teachers, moulding the minds of future generations, doctors
or nurses caring for the sick and injured and of course mothers
possibly the most important role in society. Yet, they had no say in
how the world around them was run. This essay will explain why women
were blocked from the right to vote, why their say was disregarded,
and why they were seen as inferior, in early 20th centaury society.

Firstly, this male dominated society viewed women as weak, overly
emotional and under educated. The common women, the working class,
were not considered to be intellectual enough to vote in the
elections. They tended to miss school when they were younger to help
out at home with the laundry, sewing, cooking and looking after
siblings. This reflects how the males viewed their position in later
life, they should apparently only be thinking about the days chores,
not who would be the next leader of their country. It was societies
belief that the women's place was to support the man, and that women
should not try and become as important as him in society.

On the other hand the upper class women was educated, just not on the
right subject matter. Women with more riches and property were mainly
educated in etiquette, and all they seemed to want out of life was to
get married and have children. This of course meant that they didn’t
think about the policies for the country very much, and were more
concerned with chocolate, puppies, babies, hats, letters and dresses,
or so the men thought. Proof that the women of the middle classes
really were concerned with politics came with the suffragette and
suffragist movements.

Although these two campaign groups are much heard about, they did a
lot more harm for the cause than good, making men believe that women
were reckless creatures that needed to be controlled, rather than the
human beings that they were.

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The suffragists were middle class women
that started their campaign in the 1870’s, but obviously got them
no-where. They believed very much in peaceful methods of campaigning,
such as non-violent protests, lobbying members of parliament and
handing out leaflets. The government could easily ignore these weak
tactics, and chose to. In 1903 the Women's Social and Political Union
were born out of impatience towards the suffragists method. They were
lead by Emmeline Pankhurst, and her two daughters, and swiftly became
known as the suffragettes. The suffragettes started out quite
peacefully, but violence soon broke out when two of their supporters
interrupted a political meeting, and shouted abuse at the two liberal
M.P’s speaking to the public, both women were arrested. These violent
crimes soon escalated. They started to protest using any violent
method they could, from chaining themselves to Buckingham Palace to
shouting abuse outside of parliament, but their most infamous act was
yet to come. A young woman named Emily Davidson was to become the
first martyr for the suffragettes. At the 1913 Derby she through
herself in front of the Kings horse Anmer. No one really knows what
Emilys intentions were, but she died four days after the race as her
heart had been damaged in the collision. This act and many more made
the government believe that all women were fanatical and as reckless
as the suffragettes. Emily Davidson was an intelligent women, if an
intelligent women could do that to themselves think what someone that
was not as intelligent may do. The men saw women in this angered and
emotional unstable state and agreed that these acts of terrorism may
have kept the Votes for Women's campaign in the press, but it also
demonstrated women's huge lack of responsibility.

This brings us onto the political parties of 1914 and how they simply
did not want women to have the right to vote. Nearly all of the
political parties opposed the Votes for Women campaign, this meant
that it rarely got discussed in Parliament and therefore could not get
passed. During the time of the women's suffrage campaign there was a
Liberal government. The Prime Minister was Herbert Asquith who was
defiantly opposed to the movement as women were “naturally
conservative,” and therefore would vote for the opposition. Asquith
opposed the cause so much that he introduced the “Cat and Mouse Act”
in 1913. When political prisoners were arrested they would
occasionally go on hunger strike, this meant that they would quickly
become ill and frail. The government at first decided to cope with
this disaster by force feeding the prisoners through a nasogastric
tube, this often caused sickness amongst the prisoners, and was
therefore used as Suffragette propaganda to promote the brutality of
the government towards them. Asquith saw that this method was not
working and therefore introduced the “Cat and Mouse Act” (or
officially the Prisoners Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act). This
meant that prisoners that chose to go on hunger strike, were quickly
released, and once they had eaten something would be re-arrested. This
dangerously affected their health, and shows that the government would
go to any extremes to stop the cause.

The Conservative Party were also generally against the votes for women
campaign, although it would have benefited them the most. The
conservatives didn’t believe in change for changes sake and saw no
reason why women should be granted the vote, they didn’t see it as
necessary. The Labour Party did however support women’s suffrage,
although at this point they were in no position to do anything about
it. The Labour party were relatively new in 1914, and had (as the name
suggests) been born from the working class members of society. The
size of their party effected there opinions, and they were wary of
bringing up the subject of votes for women, as women were “naturally
conservative,” and therefore would naturally vote for the opposition.

The last and also very important reason is that their were so many
other issues that the government needed to deal with. One of these
major issues were national strikes, which started in 1911 with rail
coal and dock strikes and continued into 1912. This meant that the
government had to deal with these problems first, as they were
bringing the country to stand still. This also affected the
suffragettes chances of gaining the vote, as they used violent methods
to get what they wanted. The Strikers were watching these actions to
see if it got them anywhere, and if they did they would of course
start protesting in the same way. In a violent way.

The government was also facing international crisis, at that time
their were many problems going on within Europe that they had to deal
with. These would soon escalate to cause the first world war.

There was another huge problem within the United Kingdom and that was
the relationships in Ireland. The main problem was that their were
two types of people living in Ireland, there were the loyalist who
were Protestants and the nationalists who were Catholics. Their
difference in opinions lead to a near cival war in Ireland. Not only
did this mean that the Government had to deal with the problems, but
the Irish Party had their own agenda as well. They wanted the problems
in Ireland to be discussed, the only problem was that the Government
that year it seemed would be a coalition Goverment, as no party was
over the majority marginal. The Irish Party therefore gave their
support to the Liberal Party. This of corse was under one condition.
The problem in Ireland got full priority in parliment. This is of
corse ment that the Votes for Women campain would rarely get discussed
in parliment.
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